Picks and Pans Review: The Kite Runner

UPDATED 07/14/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/14/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

By Khaled Hosseini

Like Gone with the Wind, this extraordinary first novel locates the personal struggles of everyday people in the terrible sweep of history. A happy child growing up in Afghanistan, Amir overcomes parental indifference and a shocking betrayal, then narrowly escapes during the Soviet invasion of the '80s to become a successful novelist in America—until a specter from the past forces him back to his homeland, now under Taliban rule. Hosseini makes us understand why Amir has no choice but to risk his life. We recognize how much he has lost—the joy of running after kites on streets that now exist only in his memories—and it makes the tragedy of Afghanistan even more profound. (Riverhead, $24.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Grand historical fiction

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